Three Conference Papers on Aspects of Sectarian Division - 'Limitations on the Capacity for Citizenship in Post Cease-fires Northern Ireland'
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Limitations on the Capacity for Citizenship
in Post Cease-fires Northern Ireland
What I want is so simple that I almost can't say it: elementary kindness.
Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one
day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That's about
Citizen: A member of a state entitled to such civil and political
rights as exist in that state, and owing obligation in respect of those
rights, as contrasted with others, including residents, who do not possess
such rights or obligations. The extent to which citizenship is conferred
depends on the state and its regime. In some states in the past, only those
who were wealthy or of high birth qualified for citizenship: in other states,
women were excluded from all or most of the rights and obligations of citizenship.
Religion or ethnic origin have been other criteria of exclusion. Slaves
were not regarded as citizens, in for instance, ancient Greece or the pre-civil
war USA. Citizenship can de distinguished from nationality: not all citizens
will also possess the rights of 'nationals' within a state. There usually
exists a body of law which provides legal definitions of citizenship and
non-citizenship in its codes and which can be used to decide on disputed
cases of citizenship.
Roberts, G. and Edwards, A. (1991) A New Dictionary of Political
Analysis. London, Edward Arnold.
I write in contemporary Northern Ireland, over a year since Loyalist
and Republican cease-fires were declared. I wish to deal with the issue
of citizenship as it appears within this context at this time. I have lived
in Northern Ireland for most of my life, but have also lived outside of
it, in England, Berlin, but mostly in Massachusetts. I return to United
States for a period of time each year. There, I have been a resident but
not a citizen. Yet there, it always seems as if I have more legal rights
than I have at home. I can question the police's right to search my car
or to arrest me. Under The Emergency Provision Act (Northern Ireland) the
discretion of the police in Northern Ireland is absolute. Yet I have more
responsibilities in Northern Ireland as a citizen. I have the responsibility
to pass any information I might have to the police about crime, especially
politically motivated crime, and if I fail to do so, I can be charged with
the offence of "withholding information". In similar circumstances
in United States, I can appeal to the constitutional right (which applies
to me as a resident) to remain silent under the fifth amendment to that
I am also informed by the experience of having conducted fourteen months
(ongoing) fieldwork in Derry, studying sectarian segregation, and conducting
action research on segregation, sectarian division and public policy. This
work has directly involved me in setting up public opportunities for dialogue
across political boundaries on aspects of sectarian division. The work
addresses issues of minority - majority relations, and the obstacles to
political dialogue, negotiation and compromise between Loyalists/Unionist
and Republicans/ Nationalists. The actuality of citizenship within the
context of Northern Ireland and ways to increase "citizen" participation
in political dialogue and debate have been recent preoccupations. Some
of the characteristics of citizen participation, and our apparent difficulties
with dialogue, negotiation and compromise form the subject of this paper.
Four main factors have contributed to the limitation on the capacity
(i) governmental arrangements
(i) Governmental arrangements
The complaints from the community in which I originate, namely the Catholic
community, about the democratic limitations of the Stormont government
in Northern Ireland are a matter of historical record, and require no rehearsal
here. These complaints led to the dissolution of Stormont over twenty years
ago. Since Stormont was prorogued in 1972, the people within the political
entity of Northern Ireland have been without direct self government on
substantive issues. Control of housing, health, education and social services
has been vested in "neutral" executive organisations, which are
controlled through government departments in Stormont by a British minister
with a portfolio for Northern Ireland. Local politicians roles have been
marginalised, and whilst such a position can afford some bargaining power
in Westminster when that house is virtually evenly divided, in general
terms Northern Ireland Members in Westminster do not necessarily exercise
any more influence on the affairs of Northern Ireland than any other Member
of Parliament from, for example, Scotland, England or Wales. The legacy
of over twenty years of local government with limited powers has meant
that local politicians are disempowered, and their activities often appear
limited to speech making, posturing and protesting. The impact of much
of this activity is limited, their positions are entrenched and, in the
absence of common tasks ( or a perceived common enemy) local council meetings
have become renown for the volume of internecine warfare that takes place
in certain council chambers.
This has led to a popular loss of faith in the political process at
local level, and a scepticism about politicians in general. Voting patterns
follow sectarian fault lines, and there are few if any issues which can
be dealt without encountering the sectarian divide. The disempowerment
of local political structures, the resultant position of local politicians
and the loss of faith in the political process has been referred to as
the "democratic deficit".
The cumulative effect of living in such a political regime on our capacity
to be active and participating citizens remains to be charted. Much of
the decision making and consultation that takes place in Northern Ireland
is done without regard for democratic process. Selected individuals are
"invited" by government organisations to express views, or advise
on particular issues, and the "normal" democratic channels for
such participation or consultation have been so eroded, by-passed or disused
that scepticism about participation and consultation in political decision-making
is widespread. Our political muscles have been under-used and, arguably,
have become wasted as a result. Only through renewed use can they be strengthened
again, yet it is not yet clear what opportunities will be available to
us locally to engage in such use.
The existence of the European Union has added a dimension to this situation,
through, for example the existence of European court of Human Rights. The
notion that citizens have recourse to a body which is beyond and outside
of the governmental arrangements in the country in which they are resident,
to some extent provides a sense of European wide accountability and perhaps
even an embryonic sense of European citizenship. Certainly, within the
context of Northern Ireland judgements at the European court,- such as
that of unlawful killing on the shooting by the British Army undercover
unit of the three Irish Republican Army members in Gibraltar, - this dimension
opens to wider scrutiny the balance of rights and responsibilities of citizens
in Northern Ireland.
However, there is reason to reserve judgement and faith about the possibilities
of increased democratisation resulting from the influence of the European
Union, given some of its own practices. For example, on July 26, 1995,
the governments of the European Union signed the Europol Convention, which
is aimed at establishing an EU-wide police organisation, ostensibly to
deal with "organised crime', but the provisions are drawn much wider
than this. Data protection is not complete, it potentially dilutes the
Council of Europe recommendations on storing police data, and provides
no right of individual appeal, nor any democratic accountability. It may
be that the trend away from democratic accountability within Northern Ireland
is also apparent beyond it.
Representation and neutrality
I was recently invited to speak at the Derry launch of Democratic Dialogue,
a new organisation promoting political dialogue in Northern Ireland. One
person commented to me that I - and the other speaker - "represented
nobody." The potential impact of the comment was to disqualify everything
that we said. Yet it is patently true that I represent nobody. Moreover,
when I speak, and am challenged, sometimes I realise that I agree with
my challenger, and therefore have not even accurately represented myself
in what I originally said.
The problem of representation is endemic. I, (and many others), do not
feel represented in the political process. There is not a politician available
for me to vote for who will express my despair at the intransigence of
the Westminster government - over health and education provision, over
the lack of democracy in the political system, over the treatment of women
and children in this place, over the levels of homophobic violence, over
the tottering justice system, and over the culture of sectarianism which
is in the air that we breathe
Over 3,000 people have been killed in Northern Ireland since 1969 and
over 40,000 injured. There have been numerous "incidents" of
violence in which no one is apparently injured, and there have been many
eye witnesses to violence who are not apparently injured yet who may experience
psychological sequelae for many years afterwards. Little research has been
done on the long-term effects of violence such as that experienced in Northern
Ireland, and I have argued elsewhere that the usual psychiatric framework
(Post Traumatic Stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) may be inappropriate
for use in examining the cumulative and long term effects of the troubles
on an entire population. In one preliminary study (Smyth, Hayes and Hayes
1994) 50% of those bereaved in 1972 continued to experience psychological
symptoms over 22 years later.
Cairns and Wilson (1989) found that the major psychological defence
used by people in Northern Ireland to cope with the psychological impact
of the troubles was denial. They conclude that those who are symptomatic
in terms of manifesting post trauma symptoms are probably the "healthiest"
people, judged by "normal" standards. Certainly, the use of silence
and denial as coping mechanisms to "manage" the turbulent emotions
related to the troubles has been noted by other authors, (Harris, 1972)
and is arguably part of the culture of contemporary Northern Ireland. Within
this culture, stoicism about the personal impact of the troubles and minimising
the personal effects of violence, particularly in working class areas where
the effects of violence have been most severe, is prevalent. This has meant
that those injured or bereaved in the troubles have often had to deal privately
and without support with their own responses to their situation, in the
absence of an emotional climate and culture which supports them to express
and resolve their personal grief and fear.
The maintenance of silence and the denial of the impact of violent events
have been important,- in the absence of other effective coping strategies,-
in allowing communities to continue to function in a heavily militarised
and violent situation. Yet the effects of this strategy may militate against
not only effective trauma resolution and healing, but also inhibit our
ability to engage openly in political dialogue, particularly with those
perceived to be antagonistic. Such strategies, used to cope with trauma,
maintain isolation, both at an individual and at a community level. Splits
occur between cognitive and affective responses to political situations,
whereby buried, unresolved and therefore extremely powerful affective responses
become inextricably enmeshed with the more cognitive political arguments,
and inhibit the potential for political dialogue and negotiation.
Many of those directly affected by the violence of the troubles experience
not only ongoing grief and intrusive memories of the event, but also, and
significantly, a sense of injustice and unresolved grievances and a continuing
sense of vulnerability to further attack. This sense of injustice, together
with a loss of trust in authority - both direct results of the trauma of
the troubles - have implications for the possibility of political dialogue
and therefore for the possibility of political progress and compromise.
The after-effects of trauma were illustrated in a preliminary study
on the families of those bereaved on Bloody Sunday. In that study, a parallel
emerged between the symptoms manifest by those bereaved by Bloody Sunday
and those associated with childhood sexual abuse.
Parallels between child sexual abuse and Bloody Sunday Trauma
The continuing sense of injustice contributes to the sense of grievance
which can lead some to seek revenge or redress through resorting to paramilitary
violence. The continuing sense of vulnerability can also lead to a sense
of a community or an individual having to arm or defend themselves against
further violent attack. All of this has implications for the citizenship
of those in this position. The complete loss of trust in the state and
government which occurred in the case of Bloody Sunday means that, for
many of those affected, their sense of citizenship, and rights has been
removed from them. The breach of trust has in effect removed their rights
and therefore their responsibility as citizens from them. With other groups
of people affected, the loss of trust is also experienced, together with
the sense of injustice. Virtually all groups affected experience anger,
but variation occurs in where anger is directed. Some, like the families
of those killed on Bloody Sunday, are angry at the British government.
Some, injured or bereaved by IRA violence are angry at Gerry Adams, or
at Republicans. The direction of anger varies according to the identity
of the perpetrator of the attack.
Little analysis has been done on the legacy of the last twenty five
years of political violence in terms of its influence on the political
culture. It seems likely, from preliminary work, that the emotional aftermath
of this violence has impacted on the capacity of residents to invest trust
in certain political agents including the state. It is also likely that
it has somewhat diminished the capacity of residents to engage effectively
in political dialogue and negotiation, given the injuries inflicted and
the proximity of the injured and injuring parties within the political
The history of segregation in Ireland pre-dates the troubles of the
last twenty five years.
Jones'(1956) work describes the considerable segregation in Belfast,
which was particularly marked in working class areas. Barrit and Carter's
(1962) which also pre-dates the troubles, indicates that segregation was
"in the towns, the two communities tend to live apart:... in the country (so far as it was affected by the Plantations) the Irish tended to be excluded from the good valley land and banished to the mountains". [cited in Whyte, 1990 p33]
With the upheavals of 1968 and 1969, Belfast in particular, and Derry
and other urban areas in general experienced violence which directly led
to many people fleeing their homes and seeking the greater safety of a
politically or religiously homogenous area. At this time, the first "peace
lines" of security fences were built, many of which still exist today,
and many others appeared subsequently. Whyte (1990)states:
Segregation at work affects only a minority of workers. Differing patterns of voluntary activities complement and strengthen other divisions, but are not by themselves claimed by any author to be of primary importance. Residential segregation is important in some areas: indeed it may be the most important factor of all in keeping the communities divided for the 35-40 per cent who are affected by it. But that leaves 60-5 per cent who are not. The Churches themselves, and the Orange Order, certainly divide Protestant from Catholic, but they also divide Protestants from each other... The two factors which do most to divide Protestants as a whole from Catholics as a whole are endogamy and separate education... p44..
Quite apart from the historic settlement patterns prior to the troubles
which were already segregated to some extent, segregation has acted as
a mechanism for handling the problem of the relationship between the two
political/religious communities in Northern Ireland. This relationship
has occurred within the context of British government, and within a power
struggle on a dominance- subordination pivot. The relationship has been
characterised by discrimination, power struggles, violence, coercion and
intimidation. Segregation has been a strategy employed by communities to
manage the real threat of violence and an attempt to create a safe and
less threatening environment in which people can lead their daily lives.
It has a number of intended and unintended consequences.
Safety. The issue of safety has a double edge in segregated areas,
particularly in enclave areas. Original reasons for segregation in the
late 1960's were safety and solidarity against attack. Street battles,
and the burning out of houses meant that many families fled to the safety
of an area where they were "amongst their own." Yet in the two
areas studied, the segregated nature of the areas has also meant that they
are targeted for attack. In Gobnascale, the Annie's Bar killings in 1972,
and in The Fountain, the killings of William King and Bobby Stott were
possible because enclave areas were a obvious place to select a target.
Ongoing sectarian attacks continue on the periphery of both areas at the
time of writing. In the case of The Fountain, there is some evidence to
suggest that, since the cease-fires, incursions into The Fountain have
been more "daring", going further and further into the area to
put a brick through someone's window or to slash car tyres, now that the
threat of paramilitary retaliation is suspended. In Gobnascale, attacks
occur largely on the access road to the estate, which passes alongside
a working class Protestant estate, and take the form of male on male violence.
Similar male on male violence occurs in the city centre, experienced by
young men from the Fountain, some of whom tend to avoid going into the
city centre as a result.
Whilst it may feel safer to live in an enclave area, the evidence to support the material reality of this view is ambiguous. Whilst one may feel secure in retreating behind the boundaries of an enclave, one's presence within such an area is tantamount to a public statement about one's identity. Those seeking to conduct a violent attack on the "other" community find a ready made target in such an area. Furthermore, the stigma attached to such areas - and the projection onto them of the "bad" area label, thereby attributing to all residents extreme political views and bigotry,- may act as a pseudo-justification for such attacks.
Segregated areas in general, and enclave areas in particular, have a
stigma attached to them: - residents have a consciousness of living in
a "bad area", and this impact on both personal and community
identity. The stigma attached to such areas may have some collective significance
in the wider society. If "bad" areas exist, then so must "good"
areas. The existence of "bad" areas allows the effect of the
troubles, and the "bad men" to be metaphorically quarantined,
leaving the rest of the country apparently "trouble-free" or
demarcated in to "sectarian" and "sectarian-free" zones.
Such attribution of trouble, violence, extremism, terrorism, and so on,
to enclaves or to segregated areas, also supports the "men of violence"
thesis for the causation of the conflict, whilst denying any more widespread
or systemic causes. It is the "one bad apple" thesis about the
troubles, which then justifies the saturation of enclaves with security
presence, and the resultant over-policing and stigmatising of residents.
Alongside this goes the demonisation of working class areas, and the attribution
of responsibility for the troubles to more deprived areas - where the level
of violence has indeed been higher.
Precisely because these communities formed and consolidated around safety
issues and gathered together against an outside threat, the collective
identity and consciousness is very strong. Violent attack on any individual
in the community is often perceived as an attack on the entire enclave
community itself. The Annie's Bar shooting in Gobnascale was not merely
an attack on a bar, but an attack on the entire community. In a wider sense,
it is also perceived, beyond the area, as an attack on the entire Catholic
community of Northern Ireland.
The issues of personal and community identity appear to be connected.
The initial chaos in which many enclave areas were formed has become somewhat
settled. However, memories of the period of chaos and the street battles
which led to the movement of people into segregated living remain a prominent
part of the history, and were frequently referred to in our interviews.
Commonly held beliefs have incorporated the experiences of people in the
area. Scepticism with the authorities and the ability of government agencies
to desire or to achieve positive change in the area appears to be part
of the community belief system in both the Catholic and the Protestant
enclaves. Life in segregated communities has been a part of identity formation
for some residents of Northern Ireland. This has implications for the ability
of identity positions to withstand the challenges of operating in an integrated
political life - which power sharing and other potential solutions to the
political impasse will possibly entail.
What are the effects of segregation? Is it a good or a bad thing?
Murtagh (1994)has questioned the orthodox view that segregation is necessarily
negative or entirely problematic. We have differentiated elsewhere (Smyth,
1995) between segregation as a principle and segregation as a strategy.
'We recognise that strategically people have adopted segregation as a method of coping with violence and conflict. We do not argue for segregation in principle. The principle we argue is that of making choices available to people in order to respect their fears and lifestyles... Ultimately, if we succeed in establishing a permanent peace, we anticipate that many of the reasons for segregated living will disappear. Until that occurs, segregated living as a choice for people must be available and the reasons for it understood and respected." (Smyth, 1995, p15.)
The ongoing work described in this paper suggests that segregation performs
two main positive functions:-it increases the sense of safety and allows
distancing from danger and it allows and indeed requires the development
and reinforcement of community culture, links and solidarity. However,
concern about the detrimental effects of segregation is what leads many
to oppose it - usually on principle, when its use is often strategic. What
are these detrimental effects, if any? Whyte (1990) writes,
"Segregation by itself does not necessarily make for conflict.
Aunger (1981) has shown in his comparative study of New Brunswick and Northern
Ireland that French and English speakers in New Brunswick are at least
as segregated as are Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland. Studies
of Dutch society show that, at any rate until the recent past, Catholic
and Protestant were if anything more segregated from each other than are
their co-religionists in Northern Ireland (Goudsblom 1967; Lijphart 1975;
Bakvis, 1981.) Yet neither in New Brunswick or nor in The Netherlands is
there remotely the same degree of bitterness as in Northern Ireland. What
segregation can do is exacerbate conflict - by increasing mutual ignorance
and fostering the growth of stereotypes - in a situation where other reasons
for conflict exist." (Whyte, 1990, p50)
Authors are divided on whether or not segregation causes prejudice.
Some see integration as a way forward, and have argued that it plays a
role in prejudice reduction. Fraser (1973, 128-42), Heskin (1980, 144-7)
and Murray (1985, 91-105, 120-3) have both argued that segregated education
allows prejudice to flourish. McWhirter (1983) has argued that integrated
education will diminish prejudice. This has been contradicted by Rose (1971,
336-7) and by Trew (1986, 102) who found that integrated education made
little difference to children's attitudes. To some extent, the strength
of any of these positions depends on the importance accorded to prejudice
in causing or contributing to the conflict. Given the original motivation
for the increase in segregation at the beginning of the troubles, namely
personal safety and the desire to live with less fear, the question which
must arise is this: does segregation do more damage than remaining in a
situation where violence and intimidation are rife? Surely violent or fearful
contact with the other community will do little to reduce prejudice. Yet
that was the choice which faced many who moved to segregated areas.
Yet the effect of living in a community which is religiously or politically
homogenous must concern us. Does such an environment reinforce the possibility
of rigid and fixed world views by constraining possible dialogue? Consciousness
of being different from surrounding area can lead to a sense of isolation.
Strong social cohesion within area, a "we can do it ourselves"
attitude, can weaken links with surrounding hinterland, these links being
impossible, in enclave areas, with the immediate hinterland because of
the sectarian dimension. Links with the immediate hinterland are sometimes
made to negotiate about sectarian attack. When such contacts are made,
they are often secret and considered to be high risk. Making such links
are perceived as a threat to loyalty and a challenge to social cohesiveness
of the area - "talking to the enemy". Links beyond the hinterland
are difficult to make for any community with limited economic resources
and community expertise. For these communities with their historic preoccupation
with safety, strong kinship and internal cohesion and ties, it is virtually
The literature on Northern Ireland has addressed the issue of residential
segregation as one of primary concern.(Jones, 1956; Barrit and Carter,
1962; Boal 1969; Boal, 1971; Poole and Boal, 1973; Boal, Murray and Poole,
1976; Darby and Morris, 1974; Poole, 1982; Compton and Power, (1986) -
based on the 1981 census; Smith, 1987; Darby, 1986; i.e. in housing. Other
forms of segregation have been which identified are workplace segregation
(Barritt and Carter, 1962; Rose, 1971; Moxon Browne, 1981; Chambers, 1987.)
sport, leisure and voluntary including trades union activity (Barritt
and Carter, 1962; Harris, 1972; Darby, 1976; Galway, 1978; Buckley, 1982;
endogamy (Harris, 1972; Rose, 1971; Moxon Browne, 1982; Compton
and Coward, 1989; Smith, 1987; Buckley, 1982; McFarlane, 1979) education
(Murray, 1985; Barritt and Carter, 1962; Darby et al, 1977; Cairns, 1987;
Fraser, 1973; Heskin, 1980; McWhirter, 1983; Trew. 1986; Dunn,1984; Osborne
and Cormack, 1989; Austin, 1986; Fee, 1980.
We have become increasingly aware of the interrelations between, for
example sectarian segregation and class or gender segregation, or other
forms of political segregation. It is noteworthy that in the literature
on Northern Ireland, with one exception, (Fee, 1980) no author problematises
forms of segregation other than sectarian segregation. Yet class and gender
segregation are prevalent and co-exist and impact on sectarian division.
These questions,- of class and gender segregation are virtually unaddressed.
A broader definition of sectarian segregation is suggested. It appears
that segregation can take a number of forms. Most commonly, and of undoubted
importance segregation is a material fact, with a spatial,
concrete environmental reality, as in housing segregation. This is perhaps
the most visible and dramatic form of segregation, with concrete manifestations
such as peace lines and barbed wire to remind us of its existence. Residential
segregation is, in its most obvious and dramatic manifestations, largely
a working class phenomenon and co-exists with class segregation and poverty.
Murtagh (1994) has pointed out that enclave areas in particular score higher
on social deprivation indices than other working class areas. Institutional
segregation is manifest in first and second level education, legal practice,
and in social institutions such as sport. Economic segregation
is manifest in occupational segregation, and in patterns of economic development.
However, it is political segregation, - the refusal to talk
to certain parties, groups or occupations -, and ideological
segregation, -the refusal to engage with certain ideas- that potentially
inhibit the possibility of political progress at present. Clearly, political
and ideological segregation is practised not only by the two communities
in the North, but also structures the relationships of others with the
two communities and has also been a matter of government policy. We argue
that this is supported and conditioned by social segregation,
namely the tendency to mix with those from one's own political community
and avoid, consciously or unconsciously, those from the other community
and by interpersonal segregation, namely the use of silence
and avoidance of certain issues in "mixed" company, a fear /flight
or fight reaction to issues of division and the practice of identity management
and social alibis. Interpersonal segregation, where parts of identity or
experience are denied and cordoned off, and where identity is "managed"
according to those splits, makes for an internal or personal world of fear,
secrets, silence, unresolved trauma, polarised loyalties, anger, and hatred
at a personal level. This last form of segregation requires no physical
or visible boundary or separation: it is prevalent in the society, and
does not always co-exist with other forms of segregation, yet it performs
many of the same functions, in terms of maintaining feelings of safety.
However, social, political and psychological change rarely feels safe.
Segregation is sometimes blatant and obvious: we can see peace lines
or boundary fences and see the barbed wire of the material reality of segregation.
The existence of segregated (read working class or poor) communities allows
the middle class world to project onto such areas the image of the "bad"
area where bigots live, and violence happens as a result. Our work and
that of others, (Murtagh, 1994) in enclave areas challenges this. This
projection of the "badness" onto such areas allows the illusion
of a "normal" society in which there are a few "bad apples"
to be perpetuated. Sectarianism, as a systemic phenomenon, located within
a larger context of contested sovereignty, is a social system is composed
of a number of interacting and interdependent parts. Ideological, institutional,
and collective aspects of sectarianism sit alongside and reify the interpersonal
and interpersonal aspects. Segregation, as a strategy for managing life
within such a social system, is manifest at all levels. Segregation also
has intended and unintended consequences.
Segregation can be seen as both resistance and an attempt
at control. We have already discussed how segregation has
represented a community's resistance to intimidation and the threat of
violence by establishing and demarcating "safe" areas within
which the life of the community can continue. Segregation can be seen as
a reaction to wholesale upheaval in the late 1960's and an attempt to regain
control over a community's living environment against the onslaught of
attack from outside. Similarly, segregation can be seen as resistance to
threats to the political or religious identity of a community, or its "freedom"
to express that identity. Finally, segregation can be seen as resistance
to outside influence in the form of what are perceived as attempts at domination.
Segregation can also be seen as resistance to measures which represent
to the community the prospect of social disintegration. The community,
in response, establishes and/or strengthens its perimeter boundary -either
physical or ideological in order to maintain its autonomy or in order to
Residential segregation also acts as a control of contact with the other
community, - both materially, by physical distance, and ideologically by
the refusal to talk. By construing existing dialogue as dangerous, disloyal,
or concessionary to interests antipathetic to the community, ideological
distance, and therefore ideological autonomy is maintained. The refusal
to talk can thus be construed as a form of ideological segregation. As
such, the refusal to talk can be seen as an attempt to retain/regain control
over a conflict or contest in which the interests or political territory
of the community is in question. The refusal to talk is a form of resistance,
where the control of the parameters of the transaction but make it impossible
for the " other" to treat you as an equal, or to be equal: talking
can thus be seen as taking control; conversely, not talking can be seen
Physical segregation also represents an attempt to maintain control
of the area by one community in that community's interests, and this includes
the control of the political climate of the area. This means that engaging
in discussions with certain interests (for example the police in the case
of the Catholic community or Sinn Fein in the case of the Protestant community)
is seen as threatening to the autonomy or "best interests" of
that community. As we have seen in the ongoing fieldwork, however, none
of these forms of
segregation prevent internal divisions from within each community from
emerging. A new site of struggle for control of the community emerged in
both communities in the study, - within each of the communities
The extent to which the strong cohesion which has been necessary for the survival of enclave areas mitigates against networking and community development is one area for concern. Strong inter-community bonds may render the impulse to outside relations and contacts very weak, and perhaps dogged with suspicion. Awareness within the enclave of how different life elsewhere (visitors to Gobnascale ask residents "How can you live here?") can be limited. The history and experience of segregated communities has equipped them to effectively resist outside "malign" influences. This may have resulted in communities which are better at resistance than at incorporation. This may need to be addressed in the changing circumstances which the cease-fire and subsequent political developments have
represented. Segregated communities may require experience of outside
influences which are perceived to be less malign, otherwise this limitation
may act to prevent the development of political thinking and awareness
of outside perspectives. The extent to which cohesion and internal solidarity
may present another aspect of resistance - that of resistance to change
- remains to be seen. And it is these effects which most seriously affect
the capacity for citizenship.
Public policy until now has been virtually blind to the realities of
segregation in Northern Ireland, in that specific policy relating to segregation
is virtually non-existent. The policy argument is that segregation is"self-regulating".
To develop and publish such policies would make explicit the principles
on which planning decision are made, and would prove a valuable contribution
to the building of trusting and open relationships between government and
all sections of the public. It would also allow for the closer examination
of the effects of segregation of various kinds on our capacity for citizenship.
Our fieldwork has pointed to the need to differentiate between strategies,
such as segregation, which people have developed in order to live in a
violently conflicted society, and segregation as a principle.
Strategically people have adopted segregation as a method of
coping with violence and conflict. The use of segregation as a principle
is quite separate from this. The alternate principle, which allows for
segregation to be used strategically is that of making choices available
to people in order to respect their fears and lifestyles. There is nothing
to be gained by enforced solutions, whether integration or segregation.
Ultimately, if we succeed in establishing a permanent peace, we anticipate
that many of the reasons for segregated living will disappear. Until that
occurs, segregated living as a choice for people must be made available
and the reasons for it understood & respected.
The development of good policy in this sensitive area is not a task
which can be achieved quickly, or easily, nor indeed can it be achieved
in isolation from the population for whom the policy is developed. Nevertheless,
a declaration of intent to develop such policy would be welcome at this
stage, and would stimulate useful exchanges about the aims and nature of
the current implicit policy and any future explicit policy developments.
It seems clear that living in a society which is segregated according
to class, gender and most significantly, sectarianly segregated will have
impact on our sense of ourselves, and out ability to relate to those with
whom contact has been structured by segregation. The impact of segregation
on our capacity for citizenship, it is argued, is complex and worthy of
(iv) Political process
The political process in Northern Ireland has been conflicted and polarised.
It is characterised by a lack of respect between political opponents. Name-calling,
the refusal to talk, ultimatums, threats to return to violence and the
maintenance of silence are all employed at various times by most parties
as attempts to maintain control and prevent change.
One illustration of the problem occurred in this city during the summer.
The Apprentice Boys of Derry marched in the (predominantly Catholic) city,
amidst protests from some of the local Catholic residents. This situation
led to a confrontation, arrests, culminating in a night of rioting in the
Catholic community in which one hundred baton rounds were fired by the
police. The Apprentice Boys assert their historic right to march to commemorate
the Siege of Derry, a central part of their historic heritage. Local Sinn
Fein representatives supported their "right" to march - but only
with the consent of the local (Catholic) population. Presumably if this
consent was not forthcoming, the "right" was non-existent or
withdrawn. (Some time later, a petition calling for an end to all Orange
marches was instituted by some republicans in the Catholic community.)
Such conditional "rights" appear in a dialogue, where real and
absolute rights cannot be allowed. To allow the Apprentice Boys the absolute
right to march simultaneously awards them, the concomitant responsibility
to ensure that their marching does not give undue offence or cause nuisance
to their fellow citizens. To give such responsibility to the Apprentice
Boys requires trust: trust that they will accept the responsibility and
take it seriously; trust that they will consult local residents about their
views; trust that they will discipline their members to behave in a seemly
manner on the marches.
The dynamic of domination and subordination
The background to the Apprentice Boys situation is that Derry or Londonderry was ruled by Unionists until the reform of local government in 1972. Allegations of discrimination against the Unionist regime abounded. Recently, the balance of power and population in the city has changed. Catholics are now an overwhelming majority, hold power in the city government and Protestants are moving out of the city. The possibility of changing the political dynamic from a "top dog - bottom dog" dynamic to a more egalitarian dynamic and the challenge of recognising minority rights have been a focus of work.
Being able to use one's own experience of disadvantage to read and empathise
with the experience of those in identity positions other than one's own
- and for whom one represents the dominant group, is more a theoretical
possibility than a lived experience. That I should, for example, be able
to use my experience of subordination as a woman to understand men oppressed
by poverty, racism or homophobia is a possibility not often realised. What
intervenes to prevent this possibility being realised is the strength of
my own experience of subordination, its demand from primacy over all else.
The strength of my own experience of subordination as a woman renders me
incapable of setting aside or "qualifying" male privilege because
it is the privilege that I don't have, and its lack has hurt me. Therefore
I overestimate it, I place my oppression at the top of the hierarchy of
oppressions. This tendency can blind me to the possibility that suffering
as a result of racism or class can be at the top of the hierarchy for others,
or may be at the top for me at another historic moment or in another geographic
location. I am blinded by my own pain. Generally, the sound or volume control
on our experiences of subordination is turned up very high, and the volume
on our experience of privilege is turned low. Privilege, by its very nature
is taken for granted. Assumptions about how it is acquired go, for the
most part, unexamined. The causation of subordination, on the other hand,
is often attributed to individual human agency. The role of the dominant
group is thereby obscured and their privileges concealed.
Conversely, subordination can be worn as a badge, as a warrior wears
scars, to indicate the extent of adversity, to explain our position in
the world, or lack of it, in a way that reinforces our disempowerment.
The concept of citizenship qualifies and prescribes the quality of relationship
between the individual and the state. The ideal of citizenship is a relation
of mutual respect between the individual and the state. Even in states
where there is a constitutional or legal commitment to this ideal, the
lived experience of citizens constitutes a de facto amendment to the constitutional
or the legal commitment of the state, by virtue of the ideological and
material realities of systems of subordination such as racism and sexism.
Within such lived experience, the belief in freedom or individual rights
is rendered ideological by such systems of subordination.
The strength of the ideology of citizenship, the belief in freedom and
individual rights, its presence in the political socialisation of "citizens"
and its acceptance by them can act to prevent citizens from seeing and
hearing the plethora of evidence on the impossibility of citizenship for
many. This impossibility rests on the existence of systems of subordination,
namely and primarily racism, sexism and homophobia, and economic inequality.
These three systems universally affect citizens, and at an individual level
prevent the development of an integrated self from within which the "citizen'
can relate to other citizens and to the state in a whole way. The integration
of the self is prevented by the pervasive ideological and material operation
of each of the systems of subordination insofar as they create and maintain
dichotomous identity positions; male/female, black/white, gay/straight,
rich/poor, and in Northern Ireland Taig/Prod. This process of dichotomous
is mainly problematic precisely because of the process of subordination
- the over-valuing of one part of the dichotomy and the under-valuing of
the other; the overvaluing of masculinity is at the expense of the value
placed on femininity. This is reflected in language as well as in social
economic and political practices, with terms such as "non-white"
or "under-class" implying the "otherness" of the group
by defining it in terms of what it is not or what it is under.
This dynamic of domination and subordination is played out not only
in political life, but also in collective, institutional and personal life.
To make it explicit and offer a more egalitarian dynamic in its place is
the most challenging and most essential task which faces us.
The effects of this dynamic on the person, on identity and interpersonal
relations are enormous. The consequences for the body politic in terms
of obstacles to the realisation of citizenship are similarly widespread.
Within Northern Ireland the specific experience of political violence and
the conditions which that violence created have lent a weight and a depth
to the inscription of this dynamic on political life and agency. This legacy
has circumscribed the possibilities in terms of identity, authenticity
and integrity for all of us as citizens. All three of these factors are
precursors of citizenship, yet their presence may not be taken for granted
in this (or perhaps any other) society.
The conditions which have prevailed in Northern Ireland and their legacies
must be addressed before the possibility of citizenship can emerge as a
real and meaningful possibility. We are at a point of re-evaluation. No
state can command respect or loyalty from citizens without accepting and
respecting that citizen's personhood in its entirety.
One of the major challenges in the city I work in, (and in states such
as the new South Africa), is to ensure that when power passes from one
set of hands to another that the dynamic of subordination is allowed to
remain in place. The responsibility of majorities to treat minorities with
due consideration, irrespective of the behaviour of that minority when
it was in power, is one of the keys to the successful use of political
power. The capacity to wield power with compassion and wisdom, and without
revenge for the past is essential yet difficult to achieve. It is particularly
difficult when, living in one of the world's trouble spots, one is unable
to find any role models elsewhere who have successfully managed this process
Silence and secrecy
One striking aspect of the political culture of Northern Ireland, which
has been remarked on repeatedly by observers is the use of silence and
secrecy. I suspect that this is connected to the presence of physical threat
and to a culture of violence, but also to the arrangements for government
. Feldman observes:
...In a colonized culture, secrecy is an assertion of identity and of
symbolic capital. Pushed to the margins, subaltern groups construct their
own margins as fragile insulations from the "centre". Secrecy
is the creation of centres in peripheries deprived of stable anchorages.
Cultural resistance inspires the production of fragments as a counterpractice
to imperial agendas.
I met with informants on the border of a political, cultural and historical situation, and our conversations were transactions of the border - restricted exchanges. the line between informants and informers was clearly drawn; it marked a division of life and death.
In what Feldman refers to as "a culture of political surveillance",
he says that he had to "become expert in demonstrating that there
were things, places, and people I did not want to know."
The domain of secret knowledge interposed a certain "spacing' between discourse, between words and acts, between informants. To conduct a dialogue meant apprehending the political necessity of "spacing" and the political impossibility of interpersonal parity. This dialogue with silence generated a contingent epistemology in the "field." I found that the cultural dynamics of secrecy , of editing, became the precondition for interpersonal construction of meaning. Editing, in this field, is the co-construction of silence and speech...." pp 11-12
The use of silence is connected to the refusal to talk - which was referred
to earlier as a form of ideological segregation. The refusal to talk is
used frequently used within the political process in Northern Ireland,
and as was mentioned earlier can be construed as an attempt at autonomy,
or to maintain control, or maintaining resistance.
In summary, the political process is characterised by a dynamic of domination
and subordination, within a culture of secrecy and silence, all of which
has place limitations on our capacity to participate as fully politically
enfranchised citizens, even if the political climate were to become
suddenly permissive of such participation.
The challenge which faces us is that of taking real political power. The exercise of real political power requires the ability to hold the tension between will and instinct. Acting politically in ways which are not based on the feeling and instinct -which have been
shaped by the political processes and events of the past - is a crucial
next stage. This requires a degree of detachment from our recent and extreme
experiences of violence, which will not necessarily be achieved by the
passing of time. Rather, political effort must be devoted to pushing the
boundaries of our experience and understanding beyond the parameters of
a society segregated around the management of violence and sectarian division.
Most crucially, our ability to bring the attributes of generosity, compassion,
trust, respect, and the ability to compromise to any given political exchange
is desperately and urgently in need of further development. It is difficult
for would-be citizens to behave with generosity, compassion, trust, respect,
and the ability to compromise when they have not much experience of being
treated with those same attributes. Therefore, political imagination
is a crucial part of the development of a healthy practice of citizenship.
We are abroad without a map in this new territory, and must discover and
name new ways of addressing political issues and overcoming political deadlock.
Learning to act powerfully in a political capacity is a challenge to
those whose political power has been constrained for so long by the characteristics
of political life. Yet taking power, empowering ourselves is an essential
part of the development of the capacity for citizenship. Learning to act
powerfully and to demonstrate the paradoxical ability to give ground in
order to maintain power balances is the challenge that faces us.
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CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
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